“He who knows himself is truly happy.” ~ Al Gazali
I am deepening my interest into the healing powers of plants and their spiritual essences and I am now approaching the rich lands of Islamic and German alchemy. I want to learn as much as I can to aid people in recovering and healing with simple, available treatments that come directly from Mother Earth. My aim is not to be able to produce complicated tinctures but to unlock and share knowledge to make health available and accessible for all and to help create a deeper shared consciousness.
The word alchemy was derived from the Arabic word كيمياء or kīmiyāʾ, and may derive from the ancient Egyptian word kemi, meaning black.
The origins of alchemy are steeped in legend, and the links of this chain are either mythically transmitted or through real scientific authorities in the fields of ancient science and philosophy. The doctrines on which Arabic alchemy relied derived from the multicultural milieu of Hellenistic Egypt and included a mixture of local, Hebrew, Christian, Gnostic, ancient Greek, Indian, Syriac-Byzantine, Chinese and Mesopotamian influences (see also my article on “The Origins of Islamic Medicinal Knowledge“).
“Similar to the treatment of metals, in various magic cultures plants are also”treated” with recitations that unlock their spirits. In Islam, i.e. Sufi Islam these are the recitations (Dhikr) of the divine names.”
Some of the great Islamic alchemist were:
Khālid ibn Yazīd, Jābir ibn Ḥayyān, Abū Bakr al-Rāzī and Ibn Umayl. Jābir ibn Ḥayyān (DOB 711 or 722) theorized, by rearranging the qualities of one metal, a different metal would result. By this reasoning, the search for the philosopher’s stone and the art of chemistry was introduced to the world. Jābir developed an elaborate numerology whereby the root letters of a substance’s name in Arabic, when treated with various transformations, held correspondences to the element’s physical properties. In here is a clear reference to both Chemistry as well as the divination system of the Islamic theurgy system of numerology. Similar to the treatment of metals, in various magic cultures plants are also”treated” with recitations that unlock their spirits. In Islam, i.e. Sufi Islam these are the recitations (Dhikr) of the divine names. The author Steve Beyer makes detailed observations on how to awaken the plant spirits in his book “Singing to the Plants” in which he talks about the culture of ethnobotany, shamanism, ethnomedicine, and hallucinogenic plants in the Mestizo culture in the Amazon regions.
I am talking more about the Islamic Dhikr and the angelic guardians of Allah’s names in this related article:
Great Islamic Alchemist Jābir ibn Ḥayyān’s ideas on metals were brought over the centuries to Europe and made their way to 16th century alchemist and magus Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) who shaped with this transmitted knowledge his alchemical system of spagyrics.
“There are some important but little-known differences between spagyrics and the more widely known homeopathics.”
There are some important but little-known differences between spagyrics and the more widely known homeopathics. Both spagyrics and homeopathy are valuable healing tools, and they can work together to heal effectively and gently. But their differences outnumber their similarities.
Spagyric means to separate and recombine, and can be used to make herbal extracts of great power and energetic force. The concept of the spagyric remedy relies upon the basis of the alchemical trinity of principles – salt, sulfur and mercury. Salt was the principle of fixity (non-action) and in-combustibility; mercury was the principle of fusibility (ability to melt and flow) and volatility; and sulfur was the principle of inflammability.
“Spagyric most commonly refers to a plant tincture to which has also been added the ash of the plant through the process of calcination (a form of burning).”
Spagyric most commonly refers to a plant tincture to which has also been added the ash of the plant through the process of calcination (a form of burning). The original rationale behind these special herbal tinctures seems to have been that an extract using alcohol could not be expected to contain all the medicinal properties from a living plant, and so the ash or mineral component (as a result of the calcination process) of the calcined plant was prepared separately and then added back to ‘augment’ (increase) the alcoholic tincture. The roots of the word therefore refer first to the extraction or separation process and then to the recombining process. These herbal tinctures are alleged to have superior medicinal properties to simple alcohol tinctures, perhaps due the formation of soap-like compounds from the essential oils and the basic salts contained within the ash. In theory these spagyrics can also optionally include material from fermentation of the plant material and also any aromatic component such as might be obtained through distillation. The final spagyric should be a re-blending of all such extracts into one ‘essence.’ I am writing further about the healing work with ash in early Islam in this post on Fatimah Al-Zahra (a.s) and the healing tradition of the fireplace.
“Homeopathic remedies are created by extracting a substance in a menstruum, usually alcohol, then using successive dilutions and succussions of this “mother tincture” to create a remedy which is charged with a static or frozen vibrational signature of the original material used, but with none of its physical characteristics.”
After studying Paracelsus, Samuel Hahnemann applied a small slice of Paracelsus’ work to create a new system, homeopathy. Homeopathy is an effective holistic healing system, but it was not part of Paracelsus’ work, being invented more than 200 years later. Homeopathy has gotten laid over Paracelsus’ work for so long and by so many that many people equate the two; an unfortunate misunderstanding that overlooks the fine points of both systems.
Homeopathic remedies are created by extracting a substance in a menstruum, usually alcohol, then using successive dilutions and succussions of this “mother tincture” to create a remedy which is charged with a static or frozen vibrational signature of the original material used, but with none of its physical characteristics.
Paracelsus used some methods of dilution to render some of his medicines safely potable or more gentle, but the total annihilation of the substance’s physical being is from Hahnemann’s work. Paracelsus repeatedly stressed the importance of working with all three levels of the plant’s being- the obvious physical of the Salt, the life force and intelligence of the Mercury, and the eternal core of the Sulfur.
In conclusion to this post it appears to me that I have to deepen my studies in the history and applied practise of Spagyrics to come closer to the alchemical tradition within Islam and ultimately find a practical approach to “bring out the spirit” in the plants without the aid of alcohol. Certainly there is much authentic knowledge throughout the Islamic world on the alchemy of plants. I find this of particular importance for my surging interest in how to treat the toxic effects of psycho-pharmacological drugs, because in this field, like no other, does the spirit meet matter, and is some true healing alchemy required.
More posts on Alchemy: